On Libya, Give Obama Credit Where Credit is Due

Though Qadhafi is dead, United States should not leave Libya too soon

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Libyan strongman Muammar Qadhafi is dead.

As reported Thursday by Reuters, the dictator was "killed by fighters who overran his home town and final bastion on Thursday. His bloodied body was stripped and displayed around the world from cell phone video."

Good riddance. And it's appropriate to give President Barack Obama at least some portion of the credit. His decision to have the United States back and participate in NATO efforts to drive Qadhafi from power was critical to the Libyan dictator's eventual elimination.

[See photos of Muammar Gadhafi]

Qadhafi was ousted from his citadel by rebels receiving support from the west, essentially on the theory that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." He had for years supported terroristgroups that attacked symbols of the United States, making him a continual danger even after he agreed—in the aftermath of the Iraq War—to turn over to the United States the materials that comprised his nascent nuclear weapons program.

He was also not a friend to America's major allies, especially Israel. He may have changed his tactics in the waning days of his regime but that does not mean he changed his sentiments, even as he sought to be accepted back into the community of civilized nations.

[See photos of unrest in Libya.]

Qadhafi's departure from the scene is not necessarily all good news, however. We know far too little about the composition or intents of the now victorious rebel forces—whether or not, for example, they are small "D" democrats committed to ideals like pluralism and personal liberty. Even if they are there is no guarantee those ideals will prevail, which means the United States and the other NATO countries must not be quick to withdraw. Otherwise the government that eventually comes to power, as was the case in Iran after the fall of the Shah, ends up being no better and is in fact far worse than the one it replaced where U.S. strategic and security interests are concerned and from the standpoint of individual freedom. Having gotten in for the proverbial "penny" the United States is now in for "a pound," committed to involvement in Libya at least for the foreseeable future.

  • Read about: 7 challenges for Post-Gaddafi Libya.
  • See: a slide show of 15 post-Cold War uprisings.
  • See a roundup of editorial cartoons about "Arab Spring" uprisings